Farmers and agricultural cooperatives are worried about the unintended consequences of the European Union’s plans for a more sustainable food production system.
The proposals are in line with the 27-member bloc’s Green Deal, which seeks to improve the health and wellbeing of citizens by providing healthy and affordable food while causing minimal environmental impact.
As the CAP has been designed, the market instruments are insufficient, and the farmer who lives from the agricultural activity will not be prioritized in the distribution of aid.
Among their key tenants are increasing the amount of land dedicated to organic production, reducing the use of petrochemical-based fertilizers by 20 percent and minimizing antibiotics in animal rearing by 50 percent.
However, farmers and agricultural organizations feel shortchanged by these proposals, which critics argue are adding production costs to a business that already operates on thin margins.
According to Ignacio López, the director of international relations at the Association of Young Farmers and Ranchers (Asaja, by its Spanish initials), cooperatives have adopted the ‘wait and see’ position.
However, he added that if these proposals become binding, they will likely have a “not very encouraging” impact on the agricultural sector.
López predicts that the cost of food production will go up, and consumers will have to dig deeper into their pockets to buy food.
He added that there is the risk of local farmers facing unfair competition from countries outside the region where these requirements do not exist and E.U. states, in turn, becoming dependent on imports.
In the latest iteration of the CAP, which was recently approved by the European Parliament for the period 2023 to 2027, the E.U. sought to make the agricultural sector more sustainable, healthier and environmentally friendly.
However, López said that these requirements call for digitalization and cutting-edge technologies, such as sensors and drones, to make precision agriculture a reality and efficiently use natural resources.
This means E.U. members, such as Spain, will have to allocate more money to develop the capacity to compete in international markets.
Andoni García, a member of the Coordinator of Agriculture and Livestock Organizations (COAG) executive, a farmers’ union, said member states must make many changes to achieve the E.U.’s latest set of goals. These include a new price policy and financial support to producers to reflect the cost of production and guard against outsourcing.
“As the CAP has been designed, the market instruments are insufficient, and the farmer who lives from the agricultural activity will not be prioritized in the distribution of aid,” García said.